IDC claims Windows is cheaper than Linux

Market research company IDC has produced a report that suggests it is more expensive for organisations to use the open-source Linux operating system than Microsoft’s Windows platform.

The Microsoft-funded survey found that Windows 2000 was cheaper than Linux software – for which vendors can charge maintenance and support fees, despite the software being available to users for free – for four standard enterprise computing tasks.

IDC claimed that Windows was between 11% and 22% cheaper for the following computing tasks: print serving, network infrastructure, security applications and file serving over a five-year period. However, IDC reported that Linux was 6% cheaper for web serving over the same time frame.

The market research company surveyed more than 100 North American companies and evaluated costs for networked servers supporting 100 users.

The main reason why Windows is cheaper is lower costs for IT staffing, according to IDC. It said, “The largest component of total costs was not related to the initial purchase of hardware and software, but to ongoing labour-intensive costs. The average cost breakdown over five years showed that staffing accounted for 62.2% of total costs, with downtime coming in second, at 23.1%.”

This suggests that companies find it harder to recruit IT staff who are sufficiently skilled in Linux and consequently have to pay more in salaries. The more graphical nature of Windows – much derided by many IT professionals – is often easier to use.

IDC added, “purchased management software and application costs for Linux far exceeded software costs for Windows”. One reason for this is that customers often have to custom build software tools to manage their Linux server systems. In contrast, there are many packaged system management products – that require less customisation – for Windows platforms, according to IDC.

However, this might change as Linux adoption gathers pace.

The survey represents Microsoft chairman Bill Gates’ latest salvo against Linux. Gates views Linux as the main competitive threat to Windows’ dominance of the operating system market. Proponents of Linux maintain that the software is cheaper and far more stable than Windows.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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